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Page Contents: When it is OK to move on and terminate psychotherapy.                    


I’m 30 years old and have been seeing a psychotherapist for a little over a year 2x a week for PTSD, Panic Attacks, etc. In the last four months I have no longer suffered any of the symptoms of PTSD nor have I experienced any panic attacks. I desperately needed a psychotherapist previously to take the healing journey (with me) recovering from the effects of abandonment, child-abuse, teenage rape and violence.
My anger has dissolved into compassion, self-hatred into love, my life has changed hugely, and I feel immensely happy within my deepest sense of self that’s not dependent on anything or anyone—I’m so very grateful to my psychotherapist for taking this journey with me—she’s been amazing, supportive and perfect; however, I feel that I no longer need a psychotherapist, and I believe that I’m ready to move on. I have discussed my feelings (over a few weeks) with my psychotherapist about wanting to end our therapeutic relationship, but it would appear that she believes I’m not ready. She has mentioned that the feelings she’s experiencing about loss (of our therapeutic relationship) is indeed a transference of the “loss” that I’m denying. I respect her deeply; however, I feel that this is incorrect (and have mentioned this to her). I feel I will miss her as a psychotherapist but no longer feel I “need” a psychotherapist.
My question is: When is it OK to move on? I would not like to leave if I’m missing something vital but all I have is my own sense of intuition.

When your psychotherapy begins because of specific symptoms, you know that you have reached the end of your treatment when the symptoms have resolved and you feel confident that you no longer need the guidance of your psychotherapist. It’s that simple.

Now, some persons might want to continue in psychotherapy for the sake of self-growth, even after their initial symptoms have been resolved. There’s nothing wrong with that, if it’s your choice. From what you say, this is not your choice, and that’s not a problem.

Your current problem, therefore, is with your psychotherapist. She seems to be confusing two distinct psychotherapeutic concepts: a psychotherapist’s personal feelings in response to the moment, and countertransference. That is, if your psychotherapist were to feel distracted in the moment, it could be an indication that you are distracted and are avoiding an issue. Your psychotherapist could then mention those feelings as a way to deepen the therapeutic work. But if your psychotherapist has a personal, emotional response to the treatment in general, that’s countertransference, and it should be dealt with privately by the psychotherapist.

In your case, the feelings of loss your psychotherapist describes are a matter of countertransference and are her problem, not yours. So feel comfortable to move on. It would be nice to have your psychotherapist’s blessing, but, since she is not really perfect and is incapable of giving it to you, move on anyway.


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Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.
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